ALA Conference










San Francisco, 26-29 May 2016

Hyatt Regency San Francisco









by Christian Bancroft


             At the ALA 2016 Conference in San Francisco, there was no vacancy at the Hyatt Regency, which was filled predominantly with scholars and critics attending the conference. However, it was hard not to miss the smaller conference on the science of neuromodulation on the first floor of the hotel, which sounded fascinating, but far above my educational background in science.

            Phillip Crymble, Youngmin Kim, and I presented papers at the modestly attended Ezra Pound Society panel. I was first in the panel, and delivered a paper on Pound’s interest and use of African myth in The Cantos, and the influence of Leo Frobenius on the poet’s work. Through this analysis, I hoped to show the ways in which Pound scientifically sifts through the debris of previous cultures and civilizations (including those that Pound believes have been ignored or omitted from western historiographic consciousness) in order to refuel these western exclusions with an energy that transmits the parts of one culture to another.

            Crymble’s work called attention to the critical efforts regarding Pound’s mental and physical health after his time at the Detention Training Center in Pisa, arguing that these critics disregard the impact that Pound’s health may have had on his Drafts & Fragments portion of The Cantos. Through his observations, Crymble invites more criticism to determine the authorities and causes behind the discontinuities between Drafts and the foundational directives of the rest of The Cantos.         

            Youngmin began his discussion with the Poundian oft-employed term, periplum, using it as an analogy to the kind of distant reading he wishes to exercise in Pound’s work. With a nod to Franco Moretti, Youngmin’s reading provided fresh insight into the ways in which we have been critically approaching Pound’s work, claiming that distant reading provides a critical methodology to understanding a text like The Cantos better through a focus on trans-cultural interconnections and collisions.

             In short: all three presentations were excellent, providing new, exciting, and smart avenues into Pound studies. Audience members followed up with questions relating to Crymble’s work on Pound’s sanity during the composition of Drafts & Fragments, as well as Pound’s racial tendencies. After our panel, I spoke with members of the H.D. International Society, who commented on the correlations between current work on H.D. and the material at the Pound panel (for instance, the increasing attention to resituate modernism outside of merely a Eurocentric lens, to include places like Africa—outside, of course, simply primitivistic influences). In fact, at the 2017 MLA Conference, there will be a panel entitled “Pound’s Presence in H.D.’s and Bryher’s Writing,” which only emphasizes the increasing commerce between H.D. and Pound critics.

            By Sunday afternoon, I wasn’t quite ready to leave the city, having enjoyed the conference, the food, and the weather, only to return back to the flood-prone city of Houston. One of the more exciting aspects of the conference that I noticed was the amount of younger critics and scholars, ambitiously displaying their knowledge and passion to perpetuate literary studies.





Saturday, May 28, 2016.12.40 - 2.00pm

Bay Level Seacliff A


Eurocentric Historiography, Temporality, and Distant Reading in Ezra Pound's Poetry and Prose

Organized by the Ezra Pound Society

Chair: Demetres P. Tryphonopoulos, Brandon University, Manitoba, Canada

1.    Hoo Fasa: Ezra Pound’s Use of African Myth to Critique Eurocentric Historiography. Christian Bancroft, University of Houston

2.    Authority, Agency, and the Question of Continuity: Troubling Identity in Ezra Pound’s The Cantos. Phillip Crymble, University of New Brunswick, Canada

3.     Ezra Pound and Distant Reading. Youngmin Kim, Dongguk University, Seoul, Korea



Hooo Fasa: Ezra Pound’s Use of African Myth to Critique Eurocentric Historiography 

by Christian Bancroft

Pound’s fascination and correspondence with Leo Frobenius has long been documented by Guy Davenport, Eva Hessa, Hugh Kenner, Mary de Rachewiltz, and many others; furthermore, the awaited collection of letters between Pound and the Frobenius Institute, edited by Ronald Bush and Erik Tonning will serve to open up the conversation surrounding Pound and Frobenius even more. Among Pound’s interest in Frobenius’s work, the notion of paideuma receives the most attention in Poundian studies, and despite this important work, the poet’s attraction to African culture and his active—though irregular—engagement with African-Americans tends to get abstracted. This paper seeks to avoid that by utilizing Pound’s research of Frobenius as a foundation to explore the poet’s interest in African myth, the ways in which Pound integrates legends such as “Gassire’s Lute” in Canto LXXIV, as well as his admiration for ur-African blackness and its correlation to African-Americans, all of which enable Pound to critique Eurocentric historiography. I argue that Pound’s critique manifests itself not only through his correspondence with Langston Hughes and others, but also through his use of the ideogrammic method in The Cantos, which functions as a way for him to unite his interests in African myth and culture with Confucian doctrines as well as a way for him to insert himself into these other cultural spaces. By doing so, Pound tries to move beyond multiculturalism, towards his earthly perfections of a paradiso terrestre.


Authority, Agency, and the Question of Continuity: Troubling Identity in Ezra Pound’s The Cantos

            by Phillip Crymble

For decades, scholars of Ezra Pound’s literary output have tried to reach a consensus concerning the alleged deterioration of his mental faculties. In most instances, the focus is on whether or not it was fair or reasonable that Pound should have been assessed as mentally incompetent by the justice system, and whether or not his detention at St. Elizabeths Hospital was motivated by a conspiracy against him, or was, in fact, an appropriate action. What tends to be disregarded in all this tumult is the effect that Pound’s compromised mental and physical health may have had on his agency and efficacy as author of the Drafts & Fragments section of The Cantos. In the critical rush to celebrate the arrival of a contrite and unmediated confessional voice in Drafts & Fragments, what often gets overlooked is the fact that Pound had spent the better part of forty years painstakingly evading and avoiding lyrical affect and direct personal interactions in his epic. Non sequitur, arcane parataxis, disjunctive intertextuality, hate-mongering, and heavily mediated approaches to narrative are part of the warp and woof of the poem’s fabric, and as such, our chief objection, on the level of cohesion or continuity, should be raised when they are eliminated and replaced. That these methodological characteristics are excised by an author so compromised by anxiety, ill-health, temporal dislocation, and the passage of time that he can no longer be considered to be acting in the best interests of his former self is of no minor significance. By concentrating on notions of unity and consistency in Drafts & Fragments, I argue that an alien agency operating under the auspices of legitimate authority infiltrates the poem as it moves to close, and that this intrusion causes a irremediable rupture in the text that compromises its foundational directives.


Ezra Pound and Distant Reading

                     by Youngmin Kim

We are living in the age of globalization. Until now, we have been dealing with the micro aspects of literature, reading closely the cases of individual texts, while the theory and practice of “distant reading” has been challenging against the hermeneutic authority of “close reading,” and in so doing, has created a new space for macro literatures. When literatures and cultures encounter those of the other in terms of a new geographic, ontological, and epistemological reconfiguration, the contacting points of the two or multiple entities in the world will turn out to be a vast region of interstitial zone of “intersections, competition, and exclusions.”

When one reflects upon one’s confronting the “other” literatures and cultures in the moments of self-awareness and self-identity, one recalls the disturbing vortex of enriching inbound authenticity and threatening outbound hybridization. This dynamic vortex will construct the glocal, translocal, and transnational space of world literature which will cover the hybrid convergence of the linguistic, literary, ethnic, religious, social, cultural, and new media intermixtures. This space can be defined in terms of the perspective from which one can look and gaze at the objects of the investigation. This presentation, after being provided with the new visual entity which will be composed of the deceiving “close” gaze and/or the tamed or laid down “distant” gaze, will give a case study in relation to the convergent aspects of Ezra Pound’s poetry and poetics in the context of modernism.